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Author Topic: [TSoY] Species metamorphoses  (Read 6109 times)
Troels
Member

Posts: 77


« on: August 27, 2007, 12:47:25 PM »

Hi there

I bought TSoY last week, and it looks really great. I'm tinkering with a campaign idea for when my Mortal Coil campaign ends, and I want to build it around the concept that I find the most fascinating in the Near setting: The idea that being human, goblin or elf is a physical expression of your spiritual state and priorities, and that you can turn from one into the others.

There are fairly clear and established mechanics for turning from a goblin or an elf into a human. The idea of overcoming your addiction or coming to put the life of others before your own is nice and interesting and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside (I may come across as ironic here, but it really isn't bad with positive messages). However, to put it into relief and make the choices more meaningful, I need mechanics and guidelines for turning from human into goblin or elf.

The question of attaining goblinhood isn't all that difficult. Simply fixate on an addiction (take a Key), getting XP for screwing yourself with it, and the buyoff "Break the addiction, or give up the hope of ever overcoming it, becoming a goblin". Potentially scary stuff there... The question of attaining elfhood is more ticklish however, because simply being a self-centered bastard can't be enough (or there would be a lot of elfs out there). Given the contemplative nature of the elfs, it seems there should be some kind of spiritual quest involved, but I can't quite see the mechanic. Logically, there should be rules for goblin/elf metamorphoses too, but frankly it's not that thematically interesting.

Anyway, thoughts, comments and especially, elf help, please?
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oliof
Member

Posts: 449

Harald Wagener - Zurich, Switzerland


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« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2007, 03:51:32 PM »

quote]
The character may die; he may retire for a quiet life; he may disappear over the hills or become something else entirely.

(emphasis mine)

Of course, transcendence has the side effect of ending that character's story. If you want in-game metamorphosis from human to elf or goblin, this won't help you much.
Quote

The character may die; he may retire for a quiet life; he may disappear over the hills or become something else entirely.
[/quote]

(emphasis mine)

Of course, transcendence has the side effect of ending that character's story. If you want in-game metamorphosis from human to elf or goblin, this won't help you much.
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Troels
Member

Posts: 77


« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2007, 12:39:40 PM »

Well, yes, I thought it would be interesting to deal with the consequences, and Transcendence by definition makes that impossible. The logical way to go would be to make up some sort of key based on severing your human connections in pursuit of spiritual and magical perfection. But however I word it, the logical result seems to be severing connections with the other player characters, which in practice is only cool if we're closing in on some sort of endgame.

Maybe not severing, as such, but using other people as props for your quest for perfection? Or maybe renouncing your cultural norms in favour of the quest. Maybe combining a Key of Renunciation with the Key of Self (like keys of Affliction and Unrequited Love for a humanizing goblin)? Does that sound workable? Seeing as I've yet to actually play with Keys.
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oliof
Member

Posts: 449

Harald Wagener - Zurich, Switzerland


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« Reply #3 on: August 28, 2007, 11:07:41 PM »

Well, yes, I thought it would be interesting to deal with the consequences, and Transcendence by definition makes that impossible. The logical way to go would be to make up some sort of key based on severing your human connections in pursuit of spiritual and magical perfection. But however I word it, the logical result seems to be severing connections with the other player characters, which in practice is only cool if we're closing in on some sort of endgame.

Meaning: Transcendence (-:

Quote
Maybe not severing, as such, but using other people as props for your quest for perfection? Or maybe renouncing your cultural norms in favour of the quest. Maybe combining a Key of Renunciation with the Key of Self (like keys of Affliction and Unrequited Love for a humanizing goblin)? Does that sound workable? Seeing as I've yet to actually play with Keys.
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Troels
Member

Posts: 77


« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2007, 04:22:21 AM »

On endgames: The trouble with Transcendence is that it is an individual endgame. I was thinking more collectively.

On elves and human props: The very elfish Key of Self, as written, gives you XP for ignoring other people's requests for help, not for manipulating them. But using people as props does seem very elflike.

On defining "trees", maybe you are right that it shouldn't be too rigidly defined. I just want to be able to present an example of how it could be done.

Quote
Side question: Do you intend to play a human striving to become an elf (or goblin)? Do you have players who voiced this idea?

I would probably be SG, but a human striving for elfhood would definitely have appeal for me. I haven't tried selling this to the players, yet, I wanted something to sell, first. Anyway, it'll be a couple of months before we're done with our Mortal Coil thing.

Thanks for the help.
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shadowcourt
Member

Posts: 153


« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2007, 07:39:47 AM »

Guys,

This is a great discussion, and I'm almost loathe to add anything more, for fear of not contributing at the same caliber that the other posts have. That said, I think oliof's suggestion is spot-on about not limiting yourself too much in terms of how this happens. IF you have a player who wants to play this type of character, and IF it ends up being something they pursue consistently throughout the game, let the narrative take you where it dictates going. Remember that Keys like the Key of Self are never mandatory for elves-- you could argue that the Key of the Eternal Question is just as common and species-stereotypical, if not more so, meaning that for every elf who is focused entirely on himself, there's an elf who is focused almost exclusively on a high-minded philosophical question, which might cause him to become extremely invested in the world and people around him... just in a manner which most humans would find strange and clinical.

Troels, I think you're right that keeping the focus on some sort of spiritual or mystical quest is a good idea. I suppose the real question is: is this transformation something you want to happen quite early in the game, in the middle of it, or as a finale?

If it's the first option, suggest that the character play a "new" elf, someone who is just coming into his elfhood for the first time, and have the transformation have happened about five minutes before the movie starts, as it were. It's a great technique, and leaves you wide open without limitation. In the current game I'm running, we have an elf character whose first scene was coming back from being murdered in a previous incarnation. His amnesia and uncertainty about whether he still is the person he was back then (in a sort of metaphysical, "One can never step twice into the same river" sense) is a driving element of the game.

If it's a finale option, then the transcendence mechanic works really well.

If it's a mid-game option... well... I find myself instinctively weirded by the idea, for a number of reasons. Let me preface by saying that I know some people who play TSOY find the human-to-something-else transformation against the game's grain, but I'm just fine with it as a plot element.

That said, one caution I'd give is about the "shifting priorities" aspect of TSOY, which is one of its real strengths. You can often find, while running this game, that players transform in new and delightful ways, buying off Keys and becoming new people completely. Unlike games like D&D, where you begin planning your entire life career at 1st level and are often severely penalized for deviating from it, major lifestyle 180 degree turns work brilliantly in TSOY. The warrior who retires from his life of bloody mayhem to become a pacifist is great to play in this game. As is the character who chooses to stop being afraid or a victim, and to stand up for themselves. That very transformative nature of character in TSOY is one of its greatest strengths, but it also means that players have a lot of freedom to go off in interesting new directions, and overplanning their life path tends to be a mistake. I think if you overplan the human-to-elf transformation, you might be missing real opportunities to make it dramatically significant by the choices the player in question (if you even end up having such a player) makes during game sessions. Having a vague notion ("This will be a spiritual and emotionally transformative journey, perhaps drawing on some quest motifs, or those involving alchemy") probably suffices, and leaves things open in exciting ways to new developments. Let the players tell YOU what being an elf is all about.

Similarly, this character might start out thinking he wants to be an elf and then lose interest in that thread, and pick something else up entirely. Don't squash that option, even for a plot element you think might be wicked cool. Players can and should gear-shift freely in TSOY, and that means your agenda to become Absalon-Reborn this month can be put by the wayside in order to become a mystic and recluse the next month. That's a good thing.

Another reason I feel odd about the mid-game transformation is that, unless handled properly, it runs the risk of being just "levelling up" and getting kewl powerz. The permeable boundary of the human races in TSOY is awesome, but I think its spookiness is part of its charm. Unless this is handled delicately, the "Dude, I'm an elf now. Cool. Now what?" factor is a downer. This isn't an attempt to impugn your Storyguide skills, or indeed the commitment of your players. In fact, I suspect that you're looking for a way to make this transformation have real gravitas, so we're all really talking about the same thing.

No matter when you decide to stage the transformation, my advice is:

1. Make it mystical and intense. A quest is a great idea. Consider how much roaming you want to do in a game, and plan accordingly. It's not outrageous to say that a quest to become an elf takes you all across Near, if that's the kind of game setting you want. The Green World of Khale, the secrets of Ammeni's swamps, the knowledge of the most ancient sasha in Qek, lost relics in Maldor, and hidden words of transformation lost to even the most wizened Zaru are all great obvious mystical "Macguffins" to go after. Dreams and visions are all ideal choices for narrative elements (I've always loved the Secret of Fading the Illusion, and its strange ramifications). Past-lives is the species ability of the elves, and they've always had a great gnostic feel for me. Maybe one of Near's great secrets are that everyone reincarnates, but only elves do it in such a special way. Does every human (or goblin, for that matter) have the potential to become an elf, if only he could remember his previous incarnations? Is Near the same place it was before the Year of Shadow came? The breaking of Zu changed so much, including the relationship of elves to each other.

Keep the feeling of eerieness up. Make things uncertain and mysterious. Have even other elves regard the subject with awe and dread. Use portents and omens on occasion, to hint at what might be coming, but keep things vague enough to be able to go with the flow of player choices. Consider sprinkling in some of the classic symbology of transformation: eggs hatching, snakes shedding their skin, larvae becoming insects, coccoons and chrysalises, tadpoles becoming frogs (the amphibian metaphor, in general, can be a great one, as the creature gains the ability to move from one medium to another), alchemy, the development of plants (the tiniest acorns become mighty oaks), or the cycle of the seasons. There are dozens, if not hundreds, more.

2. Keep it personal, emotional, and costly. No matter the mystical journey, ground it in the Keys and connections that the character has. Family, friends, lovers, rivals, mentors, old enemies, and more should be the meat and drink of this journey. Questing for the sacred Amphora of Souls is cool, but its really cool when you find out that taking it will destroy a peaceful community of Zaru who live around it, or that it could be used to save your lover's life or turn you into an elf, but noth both. Play to your character's Keys. Play to your character's Keys. Did I mention his Keys? Yes? Good. Buyoff scenes provide an excellent example of in-game transformation, as you suggest, so consider using those to great effect.

The Key of the Bloodline mentions something off-handedly about how no elf living today has humans that still remember his humanity. Does that mean that an elf must do more than just sever his ties to humans around him, but actually end their existence? Consider some of the relationships between sasha and zamani in Qek. Memory is important in the metaphysics of Near. Maybe the Qek know something about this, and a walozi might have something worth teaching on the matter. No matter what, I'd say that becoming an elf involves giving something up to get something else. This ties in with the first two points.

On a purely mechanistic note, you might even treat the transformation as similar to the Secret of Immortality's rebirth rules. Sometimes you can best simulate painful transfiguration through straight-up loss of pools and ability scores. If you're granting your character the Secret of Immortality and a starting Past-Lives score, you could feel free to cost him a point of Reason and the other penalties of elven rebirth. It may seem tawdry, but sometimes paying for something you want via a sacrifice on a character sheet drives home the enormity of a change.

3. Provide opposition. I can't stress this one enough. TSOY works best when there are two parties struggling against each other. The nature of this kind of mystical journey has tons of potential for that. Other elves might regard a human aspiring to reach their state as an affront to their majesty, or a threat to the sanctity of the dream that is Near. Humans might see this elf as a race-traitor or a dangerous lunatic. Family members or friends might want to stop the aspirant-elf from abandoning his humanity (or doing something horrible to them). Three-corner magicians or walozi might want to steal the character's secrets or put his advancement to work for their own nefarious ends. And we know so little about goblin-vs-elf interactions; as the two ends of the human continuum, how do they feel about each other?

Anyhow, that's enough rambling from me for now.

-shadowcourt (aka josh)
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Troels
Member

Posts: 77


« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2007, 08:54:09 AM »

Feel free to ramble on, Shadowcourt, this is awesome!

The idea that you have to "die" to become an elf is wicked, and all the advice seems good.

The idea really, is that everyone should start with a foot on the path of metamorphosis from something (human, elf, goblin) to something else, but the metamorphoses should by no means be assured, in fact the question, " to change or not to change", should be a painfully difficult one. I would try, insofar as these things can be managed by an SG, to have the actual changes cluster around 2/3rds though the campaign, but I'm well aware that sometimes you just have to let the bodies fall where they may.

And the various potential transformations should absolutely interfere with each other. Stuff like "Goblino is becoming human through it's love for Humano, who is questing for elfhood" (ouch!) is what I had in mind. If I can sell it to my players.
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